Interview with Christopher Johnson

How is your third novel Freedom's Rainbow different from Siamese Dreams and Kobe Blue?
It's quicker and sharper with more emphasis on plot and pay-off at the end. The story develops over a couple of months rather than decades. If Siamese Dreams and Kobe Blue are odes to growing up in Asia, this new novel Freedom's Rainbow is the escape from that. Siamese Dreams and Kobe Blue are based around epic disasters in history. Freedom's Rainbow follows the adventures of two young lovers searching from Asia to the Americas for the "Mysterious Independent Girl". They are stuck together day and night, dealing with sun-stroke, mountain sickness and shamans, as well as their own dreams and fears.
Your writing is often based on travel adventures but it's really about something else. This one seems light and goofy sometimes then takes on more serious themes about communication, trust and abuse in relationships.
Travel writing doesn't have to be about travel only. Travelers are going through the same life changes and conflicts as other people. They often feel light and free but there's also serious life stuff brewing below the surface. This story allows me to explore issues of communication and secrecy, truth and deceit, abuse and healing not only in Japan but between couples everywhere. They are seeking a better life through the impermanence of travel but also the permanence of love and trust.
Why did you write about Japanese? Why choose a Japanese narrator instead of a foreigner traveling with a Japanese lover?
I embraced the challenge of "becoming Japanese" when I traveled with Japanese and lived in Japan. I was thinking and reacting in Japanese anyway, so it felt natural to tell the story through a Japanese narrator. I can explore universal themes and truths about relationships by writing about a man and a woman, rather than a Japanese and a Gaijin. The conflicts between Chika and Kurisu could arise in any culture.

I know many Japanese women like Chika: full of intrigue, secrecy and mystery but also enthusiasm, wanderlust and desire for freedom. The indirect and vague nature of the Japanese language allows her to conceal and reveal information in creative ways. The Amex office is a modern version of the Japanese literary tradition of revealing truth through devices such as letters.
Speaking of Amex, why did you set the story in the 1990s rather than today?
The Amex angle made the plot possible. It's symbolic of that nostalgic era before email, ATMs, Facebook and smart phones changed the nature of travel. I want to remind people of the magic and mystery of travel. If you stay at a resort or on the beaten path, travel nowadays is often like going to a shopping mall or Disneyland. Navigation is a lost art, in terms of managing a voyage and also a relationship. In the 1990s, traveling often meant taking risks and sacrificing comfort and health. You could re-invent yourself and "disappear" for months on secret journeys without communicating with people back home. Ultimately I want to inspire readers to make epic, life-changing journeys.
How much of this novel is based on real experiences?
I made extensive notes and character sketches based on my own experiences living in Japan for more than 10 years and traveling with Japanese in Central and South America. The narrator is basically me in Japanese, as opposed to me in Thai, English or Spanish. The capricious, effervescent Chika and mysterious Mig are based on Japanese friends or lovers and their desire for freedom and independence but also gourmet food and secrecy. More than 50,000 Japanese are reported missing every year, and the Narita Rikon phenomenon is real. I write novels because it's the best way to tell the truth.
Published 2017-04-26.
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Books by This Author

Freedom's Rainbow
Price: $5.00 USD. Words: 95,370. Language: English. Published: April 18, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Travel, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
No internet. No GPS. Just two strangers searching around the world for freedom and the "mysterious independent girl". An adventure novel by Christopher Johnson, author of Siamese Dreams and Kobe Blue.
Kobe Blue --- Danger in the Land of Safety
Price: $5.00 USD. Words: 93,510. Language: English. Published: April 2, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Travel, Fiction » Romance » Erotic
Easy money. Sexual freedom. Thousands of foreigners seek a Japanese Utopia in a booming economy with ancient wisdom and a high-tech future. But as the Bubble bursts, they discover troubling insights about themselves, their secretive lovers, and a nation built on the most dangerous ground in the world.
Siamese Dreams
Price: $5.00 USD. Words: 107,930. Language: English. Published: March 25, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Travel, Fiction » Cultural & ethnic themes » Asian American
Two high school buddies escape America and begin a new life of fun and freedom in Thailand. They take new names, learn Thai, and experiment with sex, drugs and radical lifestyles -- from spectacular poverty to salacious stardom -- until a tsunami rolls ashore. Set amid the Asian economic boom, Siamese Dreams is rich with insights into relations across cultures and sexes.